15 June 2012
Eight-eight year old Russell man Ray Tait flies to London next week as part of the official New Zealand delegation of RNZAF veterans who served with Bomber Command for the dedication and unveiling of their memorial by the Queen.
During the Second World War Mr Tait held the rank of Flying Officer, serving as a navigator with 75 (NZ) Squadron. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He says his time spent as an aircrew member of Bomber Command will never be forgotten.
"I remember the comradeship amongst all, from different walks of life and different countries. The feeling of here today and maybe gone tomorrow! The flying in extreme weather conditions, anti-aircraft fire, and the risk of fighter attack. We were all left with many memories which we will carry to the end of our days," Mr Tait says.
"At the commemoration I will remember our friends who paid the supreme sacrifice. Many never saw their 20th birthday."
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones says, "This delegation honours the memory of ordinary men who have done extraordinary things for our country."
The New Zealand Defence Force and Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand are taking a delegation of 33 veterans aged between 87 and 94 years of age to the commemorative events. All international travel, accommodation, on-ground transport, and medical costs are being funded by Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.
Rick Ottaway, General Manager Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand says, "I am proud that we can support these veterans and their comrades to receive the recognition for their service and sacrifice which they so richly deserve."
Approximately 6000 RNZAF personnel served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command during the Second World War. The mission of Bomber Command was to bomb specific German targets considered critical to the German war effort.
The extremely dangerous nature of Bomber Command’s work meant that the casualty rate for the group was extremely high, with 44.4 per cent killed. Of the 125,000 aircrew who served in Bomber Command, about 55,573 were killed in action, 8,403 personnel were wounded and 9,838 became prisoners of war.
Overall, 1,851 New Zealanders died while serving in Bomber Command, three per cent of the total number killed.
The memorial in London’s Green Park has been designed by architect Liam O’Connor, who also designed the Commonwealth Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill, near Buckingham Palace. Sculptor Philip Jackson has crafted a bronze sculpture within the memorial depicting seven Bomber Command aircrew. His other work includes the HM Queen Elizabeth Memorial on The Mall in London, and the Bobby Moore Memorial at the new Wembley Stadium.
A commemorative service will be held in Wellington later this year for veterans who are not able to travel to London.
For further information please contact Defence Communications Group, Hazel Dobbie, Communications Manager HQ NZDF, 021 745 288